Friday, September 15, 2006

Church Bizarre

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is rolling over in his grave. Well... not really, but you understand the cliche.

Apparently, there is some debate brewing in Germany about the decommission of a German church that dates back to the mid-1930s. The Washington Post featured an article regarding Berlin's Martin Luther Memorial Church,

Columnist Niels C. Sorrells describes the church this way:

From the outside, it's an ordinary church with a bell tower in need of renovation. The inside seems standard at first, until one takes a closer look at the elevated lectern. Carved into the wood is a sermonizing Jesus Christ; in the crowd gathered around him are a Nazi soldier and one of Adolph Hitler's infamous brown-shirted storm troopers.

Planned in the 1920s but completed in 1935, the church is a bizarre blend of the Protestant faith and National Socialist dogma. A carved soldier decorates the baptismal font. Tiles on the wall include Nazi symbols. The spot now occupied by a bust of Martin Luther once was filled by a bust of Hitler. Even the Christ figure on the altar's cross is strong, athletic and defiant, embodying the Nazi concept of the Ubermensch more than the traditional Jesus surrendering himself.

Some want to preserve the church as a historical marker or museum. But costs are prohibitive at this point.

The article makes reference to some of Luther's anti-Semitic opinions and the attemp of Nazis to blend Lutheran theology with Nazi ideology. The article makes the astounding claim that congregants of the church simply ignored the Nazi artwork carved into the pulpit and featured in tiles around the building. I'm not sure whether I find that claim incredible or frightening. How could you not notice artwork prominently featured in a place of worship and celebrating one of history's worst genocides? How could you turn your heart to God in prayer or song or preaching and not regard these clear indications of human depravity?

But then I remember some of the other tragedies perpetrated in the name of Christ... and it is clear that a claim to Christ and the name of Christ are two very different things. I hope folks find a way to save the church and to make that point painfully obvious to all.

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